Beyond Leadership – a new leadership concept

Respect, trust and appreciation are the three core values of a successful leadership concept in agile organizations. They create psychological security, which is an important prerequisite for team performance and thus cooperation. In times of digitalization, speed is the key to success and this is achieved through agile cooperation between employees. The Beyond Leadership Work Book is based on these aspects.

  1. With Beyond Leadership you have developed a “Work Book” for managers. What do you mean by this? What do you want to achieve with it?

In our book we have described the concept of Beyond Leadership, consistently from the user’s perspective. For those who want to apply the concept, this Work Book provides a step-by-step guide including brief explanations of the scientific context. Our aim is to enable users to improve cooperation within their teams and across departmental boundaries in the simplest possible way, effectively and sustainably.

  1. Why does it need an additional leadership book/approach?

Over several years of research, we have been looking for approaches to effectively design leadership in agile, network-like structures and leadership at a distance (home office, mobile working etc.). Traditional concepts such as transactional leadership are reaching their limits. Among the agile leadership concepts, the “Beyond Leadership” approach, originally developed by Patrick Cowden, convinced us the most; that is why we have further developed it together with Patrick from a scientific point of view.

  1. What is new about this management concept?

The concept combines different approaches, especially from the field of “shared leadership”, to an integrated model, which is characterized above all by a consistent orientation towards strengths. The three core values of respect, trust and appreciation are systematically strengthened, thus achieving a higher level of psychological security for the team. That psychological security is a particularly important prerequisite for team performance is something we have known at least since the corresponding study by Google (Aristotle project). With Beyond Leadership we have an approach that is highly effective in precisely this respect.

  1. Why cooperation instead of hierarchy?

Effective cooperation that is both performance-based and people-oriented is superior to the traditional hierarchy, especially when it comes to the speed of response to changing conditions. Being able to make quick decisions under uncertainty, high performance teams succeed better than other forms of organization.

  1. As a leader, how do I get my employees to stand behind me?

I don’t know if this is the right approach. When I stand in front of my employees as a leader, I’m usually in the way. It is better if I stand behind them and understand my role as a service. In agile organizations, you also need an agile understanding of leadership. This includes above all empowering employees and creating the necessary framework conditions.

  1. How do I manage to keep my employees agile?

Agility only succeeds if it is built up via the value level. It requires a resilient trust among each other. In order to achieve this trust, employees must know each other personally well and be aware of a strong, shared value base. Equally important is psychological security, i.e. all opinions in the team are taken seriously and each member feels invited to make a personal contribution.

  1. What makes a good leader today? Is it really learnable?

Well, a special social talent and a strong interest in dealing with people are central prerequisites and this can only be learned to a limited extent. However, if you have a basic aptitude and an appropriate attitude, you can learn methods and techniques with which you can translate this aptitude into effective leadership. It is important that leadership in modern structures is a service function.

  1. What influence does digitalization / the rapid change have on our society?

These changes lead above all to an acceleration. Today, the size of a company is no longer the central competitive advantage, but the speed with which it can act and react. Management must adjust to this, both itself and its employees.

  1. Will the demands on leadership look different again in a few years?

If we knew that… The philosopher and historian Prof. Dr. mult. Rupert Lay has impressively described in his book “The End of the Modern Age” that we are currently in an epochal turn of time, comparable to the Age of Enlightenment. Like our ancestors who lived at that time, we see the fundamental changes in all areas of life, but we cannot yet see what the new age we are at the beginning of will look like. Perhaps it is helpful to focus on what has not changed in leadership for many centuries: the consistent orientation towards people and the framework conditions under which they are supposed to work together.

  1. How many employees do you have/had?

Our company is very small, and I work very agile in my projects with different forms of cooperation. In the past, for example as head of human resources at Swissair Group, I was responsible for just over 70,000 employees.

  1. What is/was the challenge for you?

The challenges have been very different over the years, from small and large change projects to very large plant closures. What these challenges had in common was that they always involved people and how to organize cooperation between them as effectively as possible.

You teach the Leadership Development Program as an external lecturer at the Entrepreneurship School, why can you recommend this further education?

The Leadership Development Program is a very modern concept that provides the right insights and skills to be effective as a leader. Leadership always has something to do with development, both with your own development and with the development of the people you are responsible for. The Leadership Development Program addresses this core idea in a very practical and at the same time scientifically sound manner.


Beyond Leadership Book – Matthias Mölleney and Sybille Sachs
About the author
Martina Müri Martina is responsible for all public relations activities at the Executive School.Before joining ES-HSG, she worked as a PR consultant and communications specialist. She is a graduate of the University of St.Gallen and holds a Master's degree in International Affairs and Governance (M.A. HSG).